Eat like a wrestler

March 11, 2019
Boxers battling in fight

Eating healthy can come in many forms. Vegetarian, vegan, high-protein, low-carb, gluten-free, and dairy-free are just a few dietary restrictions that you may follow. No one program is more ideal than the other when it comes to health. This is because everyone has different health goals, activity levels, food allergies or intolerances, as well as varying medical histories. In this edition of HowUdish Sports Nutrition Tips, we’ll look at how to eat healthy like a wrestler.

Wrestling nutrition basics

Pro wrestlers like Jordan Burroughs need to be in top shape year-round to prepare for their matches and competitions. Jordan Burroughs, for example, follows a diet that avoids red meat, sugar, and dairy, while maintaining high protein and energy levels. According to sports nutrition experts, no matter whether you’re pro or not, wrestler’s diets will need to focus on certain elements depending on what time of the season it is. Let’s look at the basics of wrestler nutrition.

Offseason nutrition

For the offseason, it will be the focus of the wrestler to maintain healthy eating habits without having to worry about making a certain weight. Nutrition guidelines during this time may include:

  • Fill up on nutrient-dense foods like fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Half of your plate at each meal should consist of fiber-rich non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, carrots, zucchini, peppers, and onions, to name a few. Meanwhile, the other half of your plate should be your protein as well as a serving of whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat bread. This portion of your plate could also consist of fiber-rich and nutrient-dense starchy vegetables like beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, corn, or peas.


  • Distribute calories throughout the day through meals and pre- and post-workout snacks. Balanced meals containing protein and plenty of the nutrient-dense foods listed above is important. But it’s important not to forget pre and post workout snacks. Whey protein shakes are helpful for protein recovery after workouts. Before workouts, you should have a snack balanced with protein and carbohydrate such as:
    • An ounce of nuts and an apple
    • A couple of hard-boiled eggs and a cup of grapes
    • A few tablespoons of pumpkin seeds or hulled sunflower seeds with a banana


  • Ensure you’re adequately hydrated. Research shows that the optimal fluid intake for men is about 3 liters, or 12 cups a day, while for women it’s about 2.2 liters, or about 9 cups a day. This is just a guideline though, so if you are more active and sweating often, then you will need more fluid. You should focus on water as well as other low-calorie fluids like unsweetened tea, fruit-infused water, or even broth. Broth can be helpful in small amounts since wrestlers sweat a lot during workouts and matches, therefore it helps replenish sodium loss.


Preseason nutrition

The focus of preseason nutrition for a wrestler is to obtain and maintain a certain weight to allow you to safely make weight and stay strong throughout the competition season. According to experts, a safe target weight is typically around 5-percent above your weight class. When you’re trying to lose weight to make your target weight, it’s important to follow these nutrition tips.

  • Eat plenty of protein: According to experts, you should aim for about 1.5 to 2.0 grams of lean protein per kilogram of body weight. To figure out your weight in kilograms, take your body weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. This high protein content will help support muscle maintenance.


  • Consume healthy amounts of carbohydrate: Sports nutrition experts suggest consuming a moderate amount of carbohydrate in the preseason of wrestling. This is equal to about 4 to 6 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. You should focus on fibre- and nutrient dense complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like whole-wheat bread, whole-grain rice, oats, and quinoa to name a few.


  • Limit fat: It’s suggested that those wrestlers in the preseason limit fat intake to about 15 to 25-percent of total calories consumed daily. Each gram of fat is equal to about 9 calories. Therefore, if you consume 2000 calories a day. You should consume about 20-percent of these calories, or 400 calories, from fat. Take this number and divide by 9 calories per gram. This comes out to about 44 grams of fat per day. Try to consume most of these fats from plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and plant-based oils like olive or coconut oil.

Competition phase nutrition

Once the wrestling competition season rolls around, you will hopefully be at your target weight. Now, you must use this phase of the year to maintain that target weight and stay in optimal shape for your matches. Here are some nutrition tips for this time of the year.

  • Consume a moderate to high level of carbohydrates. The same healthy carbohydrates mentioned before are recommended but in larger amounts. Experts suggest consuming five to eight grams of carbohydrate per day at this phase of your wrestling season.


  • Include a moderate to high level of protein in your daily diet. Be sure to consume 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Focus on lean proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, as well as plant-based proteins like nuts and nut butter, seeds and seed butter, beans, lentils, and higher protein vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts.


  • Eat a moderate level of healthy fats. With each meal, include some form of healthy fat like plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, or avocado.

Examples of wrestling diet meals

Use these meal examples to build your wrestling diet meals. You can modify the portion sizes to fit each phase of the eating regimen.

  • Grilled chicken with broccoli drizzled in olive oil and sweet potato.
  • Broiled salmon with Brussels sprouts roasted in olive oil with a side of corn or brown rice.
  • A bowl of quinoa with some lentils and loaded with leafy greens sautéed in olive or avocado oil.
  • Brown rice and black beans topped with sautéed onions and bell pepper cooked in olive oil.
  • Ground turkey served in a whole-wheat pita and a side salad of leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers drizzled with olive oil.


When it comes to healthy eating for wrestling, the amount of each macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) that you consume will vary depending on the phase of the year. However, no matter what phase you’re in, the food quality stays the same. Keep your proteins lean, your carbohydrates complex and full of healthy fiber and nutrients, limit intake of processed foods, and drink plenty of unsweetened fluids. For more information on healthy meal choices and recipes, visit the HowUdish app.